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Difference between Love and Compassion

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  • Sin Yen Ng
    started a topic Difference between Love and Compassion

    Difference between Love and Compassion

    Dear Ajahn,

    Recently I had a discussion with one of my friend who is a Buddhist from Thailand. She was saying that compassion can be directed to everyone but love is only to certain people which you are close to in life (e.g Parents to Children, husband to wife....). Then we followed onto talking about unconditional love where my friend said that love comes with suffering while compassion do not which I do not agree with. I believed that love does not come with pain as love is an action (an effort) while the expectation of what you get back for loving is the cause of pain. If the love of a parent to children is not compassion then what is compassion?

    May i know what is your opinion on the difference between Love and Compassion?

    With Metta,
    Sin Yen

  • Bhikkhu Sunyo
    replied
    Hi Sin Yen!

    I think the main thing to realize here is that when we talk about emotions, people have different concepts behind words. It's not like a piece of fruit that I call a banana, will be agreed by everybody to be a banana. Emotions are much more subtle and therefore often confusion arises when people discuss them. Especially the word "love" is a very loaded term, meaning different things to different people. Therefore I will leave aside what your friend thinks about love and compassion and will just explain how I see things.

    For me the two go hand in hand. You can't have real love without real compassion and the other way around, because they are almost the same emotion. However, compassion is based more on insight and understanding, because to have compassion you need to understand the other's suffering (or your own in case of self compassion). You can feel love for somebody without understanding their problems and suffering, but for compassion you need this understanding. So compassion is love with a bit extra, and that extra is the understanding. At least, that is what it means to me.

    Also feeling-wise, compassion is a bit more involved than love (living kindness / metta). The feeling is a bit more complex, perhaps a bit more dependent on situations. And if you want to develop the emotions, I think it is wise to develop the metta/love first, and once you have got a solid basis in that, step towards compassion. Developing compassion can also bring some of your own problems to light, so in my experience you'll need the stability.

    I guess it all comes down to really experiencing these emotions. We can discuss them and have opinions about them, but unless we really sit down to develop them and really look at them directly for a long time, we won't really know them.


    With love and compassion!

    Sunyo

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